12 episodes

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.

The Mayor of Maple Ave Penn Live, Advance Local & Meadowlark Media

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.4 • 451 Ratings

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.

    Chapter I

    Chapter I

    "Don't you remember that camp? Don't you think it was weird? Something happened… he changed."
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    • 58 min
    Chapter II

    Chapter II

    "I need to know what's going on. What is going on with him that he's nodding off like that?"
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    • 59 min
    Chapter III

    Chapter III

    Shawn was nearing the end of his 30-day stay at The Ranch, and from what Marianne could tell, he hadn’t truly been sober for very much of it. She felt the promise of this fancy rehab facility atop a hill slipping through her fingertips.
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    • 46 min
    Chapter IV

    Chapter IV

    ""He stole my childhood from me. I don't know who I am anymore"
    Please note that this chapter contains profanity and graphic depictions of child abuse and sexual assault that some people may find distubring.
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    • 24 min
    Chapter V

    Chapter V

    As hard as Shawn was trying to lead a normal life, at best he was only halfway. And that’s probably why he was so focused on Josh and Katelyn’s wedding.


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    • 1 hr 4 min
    Chapter VI

    Chapter VI

    In the past, Shawn had been very careful to hide the gory details of his addiction from his family. But today is different.
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    • 1 hr 2 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
451 Ratings

451 Ratings

Ads really? ,

Great story

I think this podcast told the story of Shawn and his family well and love that it gives a deep perspective on how Shawn’s family was suffering so much throughout his addiction. I took one star off because I wish there was a deeper investigation/dive into why exactly Shawn wasn’t getting help instead of just relying on the mom’s perspective. I completely understand Marianne’s anger over how difficult it was to find help for Shawn. But she’s also very biased in favor of her son. A lot of addicts have been helped by suboxone and good people at addiction treatments facilities so it gives me a sour taste when she rants against the system but brushes over Shawn’s poor behavior. At the end of the day, his addiction was so bad that Marianne couldn’t even have him around so to expect the state or some medical institution chase after him gets pretty unreasonable after the second or third time. Her love for her son was very moving but it would’ve been nice to get both sides of the story.

PfreakingC ,

Well spoken deep dive

Sara and team, well done and thank you for this wonderful content. It’s a shame that so many of those you tried to interview or give space to express their point of view were unwilling to participate. You have presented us with a very interesting and thought provoking deep dive into addiction, the causes, the family struggles, the system wins and short comings. Despite some comments from listeners regarding their disagreement on how you presented medications, I never felt you were one sided. This podcast presents one family’s struggle with addiction in a way that millions of Americans can relate to. It’s about so much more than the “right” form of treatment or the “correct” attitude. It’s about the conversation we need to have as Americans. Addiction is a disease that plagues people from every class, in every setting, for a multitude of reasons. It’s highly likely we’ll all face the affects of addiction in some negative manner and we need to do something about it. Your podcast made me cry, feel frustrated, but most importantly, it has given me the drive to enact change in any way I may be able to.

To Sean’s family, I’m sorry for your loss. I’m so sorry.

A and Rob ,

An exposé of a system with chasms

I think the awful story of Sean and his family’s suffering is well told. I especially appreciate the exposure of just how inadequate drug/alcohol and mental health safety nets are in PA and the US. Care for those without significant resources is often pretty dismal.
Anyone who thinks that we are within decades of these chronically underfunded systems reducing gun violence need to understand that there are many, many stories like this one. And Sandusky’s predation? Under PSU’s nose? Don’t even get me started.

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