HOUSTON — A Houston man who adopted nine boys is accused of sexually abusing one of them repeatedly.
Hayim Nissim Cohen, 38, was charged with continual sexual abuse of a child and two counts of sexual assault of a child under 17.
He’s also accused of repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting other adoptive sons, according to court documents.
The podcast: A cry for help
The investigation began after a 17-year-old son called a podcast and told listeners he’d been sexually abused by his adopted father (Cohen) since he was 11. He said his adopted siblings had also been repeatedly sexually assaulted.
The boy told listeners there had been eight Child Protective Services investigations but Cohen always threatened or bribed the victims so they wouldn’t tell the truth, according to court documents.
The teen said he had a burner phone so Cohen wouldn’t catch him making the call.
Others on the podcast urged the teen to get help for himself and his brothers. He said he was waiting until he turned 18 to report Cohen to law enforcement.
CPS launches investigation (WARNING: Disturbing details)
*All information below is from court documents.
A CPS investigator learned about the podcast, traced the IP address and contacted the 17-year-old, according to court records.
During an interview, the investigator played the podcast and said the boy was “visibly scared and shaking.” He confirmed he was the caller.
The teen then began describing what was going on behind closed doors. These are some of the allegations. The following is all from the charging document.
- He said the abuse by Cohen began three weeks after he was adopted in 2016.
- He said Cohen made the boys massage his feet before molesting them and forcing them to perform a sex act on him.
- When he turned 14, the teen said Cohen began raping him.
- He said Cohen forced him and his younger brothers, now 16 and 14, to perform oral sex on him and on each other while he watched. He said the 16-year-old ran away but deputy constables returned him to the house.
- He said two 10-year-old brothers said they’d been abused, too, but the teen said he hadn’t witnessed it. He said when Cohen called any of the boys to his room, they all knew what that meant.
- Cohen also verbally abused his sons, calling them “white trash” and “racist,” according to the teen.
- He said Cohen uses a wheelchair and oxygen tanks in public or when people come over, but not when he’s alone with his sons.
- The boy said Cohen warned him that if he told anyone it would be his word against Cohen and his siblings.
He told the investigator he was “not brave enough to say anything.”
The foreign exchange student
These weren’t the first allegations of sexual abuse against Cohen.
In 2019, he was charged with indecency with a child after a foreign exchange student living with the family told his school principal that Cohen was abusing him.
The boy from Spain was 16 at the time.
He told police that Cohen would make him feel guilty if he did something wrong like leave his clothes on the floor or not clean up after himself. Cohen would say the boy’s behavior “made him sad” so the boy “needed to make him happy.”
The student said Cohen began fondling him in his bedroom after the other boys went to sleep. After several months of that, according to court documents, Cohen began forcing the victim to perform a sex act on him.
"The conduct is gut-wrenching. It is worse than what we even imagined, there are so many feelings and emotions that it's hard," Sherry Scott, the victim's attorney, said.
“The student said he did it because he felt like if he did not, he would not get to finish the year and he would lose one year of school if sent back,” court documents said.
Cohen was charged in October 2019.
The 17-year-old involved in the most recent charges told the CPS investigator when Cohen was in court on those charges, he pretended to cough uncontrollably. The defendant also claimed he was under hospice care for a terminal illness.
A judge released him on a $75,000 bond and Cohen returned home where the abuse started back up again, according to the 17-year-old. The 2019 case is still pending.
In 2021, the exchange student filed a lawsuit against Cohen and ERDT, the student exchange organization that placed him with the defendant.
CPS said all of the children were later removed from the home and are now in foster care.
Editor’s note: KHOU 11 did a profile of Cohen and his nine sons in 2019 before any of the allegations came to light. He had not been charged at that time.
Child abuse resources & services
If you or someone you know is a victim of child abuse of any kind, there is help available. You can start by contacting one of these agencies or organizations.
- Children's Assessment Center 1-800-252-5400
- Childhelp 1-800-4-A-CHILD
- Houston Police Department Juvenile Division 713-731-5353
- Crime Stoppers of Houston 713-521-4600
You can also tell an adult you trust, such as a teacher, principal or school counselor.