'Choking game' claims teen

Published Aug 2, 2008


By Sheree Baga

A Pretoria teenager may have become the latest casualty of a fatal "game" played by teenagers, which involves asphyxiating themselves to achieve an euphoric state.

It was while playing the "choking game" on Monday when Kobus van der Watt, 17, of Elandspoort, strangled himself with a rope used to tow heavy vehicles.

Reports suggest that the teenager intended to undo the knot when he felt faint, but it did not come loose.

Experts have warned that the game, where youngsters cut off oxygen to the brain through strangulation with a rope, belt or tie, to achieve a euphoric or sexually aroused state, is surging in popularity in South Africa.

According to Beeld, the game is apparently a craze among teenagers in western Pretoria, who want to experience an "energy rush".

The newspaper reported on Friday that Van der Watt may have been the second boy to die in the past months while playing the game.

In March, 14-year-old Marius Prinsloo, of Brits, was found hanging from the handle of a cupboard door by a scarf.

Photos were later found on his cellphone of him playing the game, also known as the "pass out game".

Pretoria police said they were unaware of any games played by teenagers involving hanging.

Sandra Hoffman, a counselling psychologist, says the phenomenon may be related to children seeking dangerous forms of "immediate gratification" so they can be recognised.

"Children are drinking enormous amounts and doing a lot of partying. When kids start becoming (teenagers), their identity is not formed yet.

"They use whatever's in their environment. If that (strangulation) is what is going on in their peer group, they take it on.

"I think these are normal teenagers. But it's the peer group way of being recognised today. But this way of getting recognition these days can be very dangerous."

Gary Wise, a counselling psychologist, suggests that it's the excitement that draws youngsters.

"There are groups of one or two individuals actually into this. Perhaps these teenagers have this psycho-sexual need for asphyxiation and what happens is this gets a following going, maybe from a couple of guys who are not really into it but think it's cool.

"Along comes some child and they think it's really exciting and try it."

Pixie du Toit, a forensic criminologist who is researching the phenomenon, warned earlier that the game is fast spreading among boys of 14 to 16 "when the hormones are running high and they're looking for excitement".

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