September 2018, 26-year-old Shawn Sinisi landed at the Pittsburgh Airport after a late-night flight from Arizona. No one was there to pick him up — he was alone with a simple suitcase of belongings, having been abruptly kicked out of one of the top drug rehab facilities in the country. He was supposed to be recovering from an addiction that had consumed most of his young life. Instead, he hit the streets to score then walked into a McDonald’s bathroom and dialed a friend to talk him through his misery while he shot a needle into his arm. She remembers his voice trailing off. The dope was laced with fentanyl. That night, Shawn became the first known and documented victim of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse to die.
Most of the last decade has been about accurately recognizing and dealing with sexual abuse — bringing it to light, and holding people accountable. What’s missing is treating those who are struggling with the effects. As a society, we talk about drug abuse and we talk about sexual abuse, but often those are in silos – separated from one another. Shawn’s story brings both together and highlights the complexities of this trauma and the system failures that are not being addressed.
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