A child’s bath with a babysitter in charge should be the most innocent, unnoteworthy activity.
But for two young sisters in Bucks County, their babysitter was “a grown man with a welcoming face” that masked the sick soul of a pedophile, one said.
So bathtime, when William Charles Thomas babysat, became photography sessions and sex abuse that left both sisters scarred for life, they told reporters during a news conference Wednesday at the Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) office in Jamison, Bucks County.
William Thomas (Bucks County District Attorney’s Office)
The siblings, now 23 and 26, endured years of abuse allegedly at Thomas’ hands, starting when they were 4 and 7.
They urged others who Thomas might have abused to come forward.
“I feel as though not enough people come forward and speak up in situations like these, and that is what makes it possible for these horrible predators to get away with these situations for so long,” said the younger sister, whose name is being withheld due to the nature of the abuse. “I want women all over the world to find courage, like I did, to speak up, to get the justice they deserve and to put predators like William away in prison where they belong.”
Falls Township police arrested Thomas, 58, a handyman who lived in a Morrisville mobile home park, last month on 51 felony and misdemeanor crimes including child rape and dissemination of child pornography.
Investigators suspect he raped many children over 40 years, documenting the serial abuse in sexually explicit writings on the walls of his homes.
In his trailer at the Midway Village Trailer Park on Bristol Pike, detectives discovered as many as 1,000 pairs of soiled children’s underwear Thomas allegedly collected as “trophy evidence”; a play area with hundreds of toys and a sign specifying the rules of the room required all children to be nude; more than 1,000 photographs and drawings of prepubescent children hung on his bedroom walls; and as many as 100 dolls that Thomas allegedly turned into sex toys.
He remains jailed on $900,000 bail pending a March 28 hearing.
Police have identified five victims, but fear there could be many more because Thomas has changed jobs and homes several times in the past four decades. They asked anyone who interacted with him and suspects abuse to contact Falls Sgt. Christopher Clark at (215) 302-3315 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Bucks County Det. Lt. Robert Gorman at (215) 340-8141 or email@example.com.
The sisters who greeted reporters Wednesday read from written statements and spoke just a minute or so each before disappearing behind closed doors.
But during their brief speeches, both said they felt compelled to talk publicly to help squash the shame that accompanies sexual abuse and to ensure justice.
“Things like this mess a person up for their whole lives, wondering what was wrong with you, why you seclude yourself from the world, why you can never get the right amount of affection to the people who try to love you, why you can never let anyone in, and why you can’t find some reason to love yourself. You blame yourself for being the outcast,” the older sister said. “But today, I will no longer feel that way. This is not my fault, because I wasn’t even old enough to understand. I was taken advantage of by a grown adult child molester. I hope that anyone else that was affected by this man, please step up. You will be heard. Everyone deserves justice for this horrible situation.”
Her sister agreed: “Children are so young and innocent, and nobody deserves something like this. So I decided to take a stand for myself and everyone else who’s been a victim of William Thomas. I refuse to allow people like this on the streets where children should feel safe. And if I can encourage just one person to stand up, then … I’ve done my job.”
Talking about their experiences can help sex-abuse victims heal – and empower others, said Charity O’Reilly, NOVA’s counseling coordinator.
“As children become adults and become aware of the depths of the depravity of what happened to them, they … use their adult minds to look back and say: ‘Why didn’t I know?’ (But) we know as children, they couldn’t possibly have known what was happening to them, and so then (as adults) they are often stuck in those feelings of embarrassment and shame,” O’Reilly said. “What these victims did today, which was so unusual and so courageous, will give courage to many other victims, perhaps victims in this case, perhaps victims in other cases.”