UNTIL earlier this week, I didn’t know who Kyle Stephens was. In fact, few people knew who she was. But over the past few days, she has, quite rightly, been hailed as a hero.

Stephens was the first person to testify in the sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who has been convicted of sexually abusing young girls.

If you’ve not seen Stephens’ testimony,

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go and watch it. She is remarkable. Between the ages of six and twelve, Stephens was sexually abused by Nassar, who was a family friend, and she waived her right to anonymity to address Nassar directly in court. “You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification.

“That is unforgivable. I testified to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar,” Stephens said before detailing some of the horrific acts Nassar subjected her to.

She finished her testimony by addressing Nassar directly, saying: “Perhaps you have figured it out by now that little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”

Stephens was just one of dozens of Nassar’s victims who have testified over the past few days, with many of the women former gymnasts who were abused by the erstwhile doctor during their athletic career.

What has been particularly shocking is that no one was immune from Nassar’s attentions. Often, those who are the best in their sport escape such abuse as they have too much power for a potential predator to risk doing anything to them. But not Nassar.

Olympic gold medallists McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman have all revealed that they were victims. And earlier this week, Simone Biles, who was the star of the Rio Olympics Games, posted on social media that she had been abused by Nassar.

That Nassar was able to get away with this behaviour for so long is astonishing, but the most worrying part of this appalling story is that USA Gymnastics were complicit. Maroney alleges in a lawsuit that she filed last month that the governing body paid her to keep quiet about the abuse, and only this week stories were abound that if she breaks her non-disclosure agreement, she will be fined $100,000. Raisman has also spoken about USA Gymnastics ignoring allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar and claimed that the organisation “threatened” her to keep quiet.

That sexual abuse against young girls happens in sport should not be unexpected –

it happens in many other walks of life so why would sport be any different? However, that it can be this widespread and this long-lasting,

is terrifying.

So how can the few cases of abuse be caught? It is almost impossible to find an answer. Banning physical contact entirely would be wholly unhelpful and would be significantly detrimental to the athlete.

Yet by allowing contact, the system is open to abuse. And while it was in America that Nassar was preying on young girls, make no mistake that it will almost certainly be happening somewhere in the UK right now.

What worries me the most is that when

I think back to when I was competing in elite sport, and I put myself in the position of these girls or anyone else who has been abused in a sporting context, I have no idea to whom

I could have spoken about it.

There was not necessarily a system which willfully made it hard to speak out about any kind of abuse, but thinking back, I don’t have the sense that it would have been easy.

Sport is a business and any business is keen to protect its reputation. Anyone who would be confided-in would, almost certainly, have an interest in protecting the name of the organisation that was being complained about. As it stands, there is not a clear route that I can see for athletes to raise concerns, particularly about a powerful individual within the sport.

This is not to say that the majority of people would rather keep quiet than do the right thing, but it does make it harder for any athlete who is considering blowing the whistle.

The case of Nassar proves that sport can be a dangerous place.

That risk can never be eliminated entirely, but more has to be done to make it as easy as possible for athletes, whatever age they are, speaking up about abuse.