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ONLY is not an excuse, there is no excuse

Whether it’s with friends or your own sub-conscious, one word always appears to excuse inappropriate behaviour. ‘ONLY’.

Men hide behind ONLY. Women, see ONLY as another barrier to being listened to, believed and heard.

The word ONLY is used to excuse inappropriate behaviour, It gets used in conversation by men to justify their actions. It gets used by people to dilute women’s genuine fears.

It’s time to stop hiding behind ONLY. It’s time to call out ONLY.

Nowhere should be a place of fear

  • Touching someone when they don't want you to.
  • Making unwanted sexual comments or gestures.
  • Following someone without their knowledge.
  • Making unwanted contact on social media, texting or calling.
  • Watching or spying on someone.
  • Taking pictures without someone knowing, including upskirting.

All these actions causes fear, alarm and distress. It's sexual harrassment and it's not ok. Violence and abuse against women and girls in all its forms is wrong.

Attitudes that condone and normalise abusive behaviour are part of our culture. From sexist jokes and ‘banter’ through to harassment and rape. We want men to speak out about this abusive behaviour.

Calling out others on their behaviour is not about humiliating or shaming them, or getting into a fight. It’s about educating and encouraging a change in attitudes.

We should only call out disrespectful/harmful behaviours and attitudes in a way that is safe for everyone involved.

Concerned about your own behaviour?

The way you behave is a choice, and you can choose to stop. The Respect phoneline is a free, non-judgmental helpline if you are concerned about your own behaviour.

Concerned about another man’s behaviour?

Have you ever seen or heard something out of order happen while out socially or at work? Have you ever heard a friend make a dodgy comment but not sure how to call it out?

Safe to say supports you to safely challenge sexual harassment and has lots of advice and ideas. The website has been produced by the Wales Violence Prevention Unit, the Good Night Out Campaign, and Welsh Women’s Aid.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Arrange to meet the person involved privately to discuss what was said.
  • Don’t feel pressured to laugh along to sexist conversations or ’banter’.
  • Change the subject.
  • Walk away, do not engage with the inappropriate comments or conversation.
  • Ask curious questions like what do you mean by that? What makes you think that?

How you can help women feel safer?

  • Call out inappropriate language and behaviours used by others.
  • Respect personal space, keep at a respectable distance. Cross the street to avoid walking behind a woman. The same goes for running or jogging especially at night.
  • Ensure your lone female friends have a plan to get home safely on a night out.
  • Don’t strike up conversations with women where they may feel threatened or isolated like an empty train carriage or bus. If she strikes up a conversion, fine, otherwise leave her alone.
  • Don’t engage in victim blaming, or judge women for their actions such as the clothes they wear.
  • Challenge gender stereotypes and inequality wherever you see it.
  • Discuss these issues with your male friends and family.

Want to be a better ally?

We know that you may want to do more but lack the confidence to challenge someone or are unsure how to. Listen to and believe women when they say they feel unsafe.

Men can help each other change and promote gender equality and respect. You can become a better ally by not committing, excusing or remaining silent about male abuse and violence against women.

You could also encourage and engage your favourite pub, sports club, place of work, gym or place of worship to become better allies.

Become a White Ribbon Ambassador

Join other men who challenge the harmful attitudes and beliefs that allow abusive behaviours to flourish.

Find out more about becoming a White Ribbon Ambassador.

Want to learn more?

Ask me

Ask Me provides support and free training to help community members start conversations about abuse.

The project is delivered by Welsh Women's Aid.

Bystander intervention initiative

The Bystander Intervention helps communities intervene proactively to stop violence and abuse.

The programme is aimed at universities and higher education institutions. Based on social norms theory, it helps students identify problematic situations and how to intervene safely.

The initiative is developed by UWE Bristol and delivered by Welsh Women's Aid.

Further help

If you need further intervention, please contact us at

We will try to help you get the support you need, whether this is more information, advice and or training.

If you have experienced or witnessed any stalking, harassment, violence and abuse, speak to Live Fear Free.

CallOutOnly: campaign

Related links

Read about our Live Fear Free campaigns.