No man is a hero in the ladies' room. That is a given. Even in a nicer class of restaurant loo, with real soap and hand towels, terse summaries of tonight's date's character are shared there with an expressive eye roll while lipstick is topped up to renew the fray.

Cynicism is how we tend to bond away from the male gaze, so I was not surprised at a report that former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, has disclosed that the few women at G20 meetings in her day, "all had some complaints over the washbasin" when they got together.

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Of course, they did, and I wish she had enumerated them. Did they laugh about Putin's pin-up poses, bare-chested on horseback like a mini-me Dothraki in Game of Thrones, following the Mother of Dragons? Would they cackle about the amount of hair product Donald Trump uses, and shake their heads over the tribulations of Teresa May? It would be unnatural if they didn't. As for Gillard, surely no woman was ever so reviled for her audacity in having red hair and a rich Aussie accent, both at once.


Bonding sessions are held at the workplace washbasin, too. In one job, where my boss was prone to a domineering variety of sexual harassment, I used to retreat to the loo to chorus, I Enjoy Being a Girl and The Girl That I Marry with a friend enduring the same tribulations. The loo was a place of respite, though the boss was not above hammering loudly on the door.

Women seem to have come a long way since then, and now put up with a lot less, but I suspect that is more apparent than real. Top women – Gillard, May – tend to be childless for the good reason that there's an inherent conflict in being ambitious and being a mother. Hopefully, our Prime Minister will show that it's possible to be both.

The gender battles of the 1970s must seem like a remote pinpoint in time to young women, irrelevant as the Crimean War, equally mysterious in causes and purpose. They take for granted the changed world they live and work in, as they should, and ask for more.

It seems, though, that as we battled for equality with men we were not equally attentive to the protection of children. The role of Commissioner for Children here came about only in 1989. A law against physically assaulting them is more recent.

A government inquiry into past abuse of children will only be looking into those who were in state care, but wherever malign adults have access to vulnerable children there will be similar stories.

People may find telling their grim stories to the inquiry cathartic, and there could be financial compensation, but in the meantime, the government agency charged with care of children has changed its name again. Children continue to be harmed, and kill themselves, and their own parents make their lives unsafe.

The scandal that has struck American gymnastics shows what happens when people in authority fail to listen to, let alone act on, young people's complaints.

Dr Larry Nassar, a paedophile, had free access to girls as young as 6, both family friends and top gymnasts, who he abused for decades before a newspaper got wind of him.

Nassar has been sentenced to 40-175 years in jail, which is gratifying, but the adults who ignored the girls' complaints – there were many - were his enablers.

In hindsight, it was surely astounding that nobody in USA Gymnastics thought it wise to have young girls chaperoned during all necessary physical examinations, let alone have a staff member responsible for the children's wellbeing. Admittedly Nassar is said to be personally charming, even charismatic, but aren't they all? Their verbal smokescreens impress other adults, but why would kids make this stuff up?

Better to tell someone, but people don't for many reasons. A doctor sexually assaulted me when I was 13, and I was so shocked, and so feared being disbelieved, that I said nothing. I said nothing either when I was a kid at boarding school, where we were looked after by a series of matrons of varying degrees of eccentricity. One of them boxed my ears so hard and so often that my hearing was permanently damaged. It took a while for that to be detected, and by then she'd left.

These unpleasant experiences were nothing compared to the hell so many children live in, but I can report that the after-effects of even such small incidents never leave you. A benign assumption that nothing bad will happen doesn't cut it, and as we are now learning, never did.