My toyboy lover punched my head & twisted my neck as I held our baby in Xmas Eve assault – I'm disgusted he dodged jail
WHILE Christmas should be a time of comfort and joy, for some Brits it's a period of fear of violence.
That was certainly the case for Gina Lambert, 38, whose toyboy lover brutally attacked her in her living room on Christmas Eve as she desperately tried to shield their baby from his punches.
New research suggests that domestic abuse is more prevalent at this time of the year, with over indulgence in alcohol causing a spike in assaults and the stress of staging the “perfect” Christmas generating tension.
The campaign group Women’s Aid, which has a support line open during the winter break, argues perpetrators need to be held accountable.
Survivor Gina, from Derbyshire, echoes this view, telling The Sun the courts are not doing enough to protect vulnerable women.
She spoke of her disgust after her ex – Ashley Collingwood-Hook – was spared jail despite his violent, sustained attack which left her fearing for her and her child's life.
In a violent frenzy Collingwood-Hook – who is 12 years younger than Gina – delivered a volley of punches to her head and face.
Gina suffered bruises and cuts as she crouched in-between her sofa and the wall of her living room shielding their nine-month-old son.
He was let off with a suspended sentence in March this year.
Dental nurse Gina said: “He attacked me on Christmas Eve, and I can never forgive that. Christmas was ruined for me and my children.”
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The mum-of-five first met Collingwood-Hook in 2017, when she was 34 and he was 22.
She recalled: “I was out with my daughter and we were ambushed by a stranger who was really abusive.
"Ashley lived over the road and he was really kind to me and offered to help.
“From there, we started seeing each other.
“I was unsure at first, Ashley was 12 years younger than me. I had three kids and I was a middle-aged mum, and he was so young.
“But Ashley was very thoughtful and romantic and he won me over. He even bought me a little run around car.”
The couple had two sons – Leo, born in October 2018, and Noah, in March 2020.
Gina said: “It was during the first pregnancy that the age gap really started to show. Ashley was too immature.
“We started to argue. Ashley was never physically aggressive, but he could be cruel verbally.
"We split once but I took him back because I was besotted, I was head over heels in love.”
The couple split for a second time in November 2020, but he moved in next door.
Gina said: “At first, having Ashley living next door worked out quite well. It was good to have him close by for the children.
“But on December 23, Ashley ran out of gas and I let him stay with me as a favour.
"On Christmas Eve I began packing a bag ready to go and stay with my mum, as I spend Christmas with her every year.
“Ashley didn’t want me to go and we started rowing. Ashley had never laid a finger on me before but he grabbed my ponytail and started punching my head.
“I crouched down behind the sofa, holding our baby Noah, trying to protect him. I was so scared.
I crouched down behind the sofa, holding our baby Noah, trying to protect him. I was so scared
“He wanted me to hand the baby over but there was no way.
“He punched me in the head over and over, and tried twisting my neck, clawing at my face. I was screaming for help at the top of my voice.
“Ashley ran off, and I got help from a neighbour, but he came back and kicked the door in.”
Ashley was arrested late on Christmas Eve, but for Gina, Christmas was ruined.
She said: “I had cuts and bruises to my face and neck, and I had flashbacks and nightmares. I still suffer with anxiety, even now.”
Research by Stowe Family Law – the UK’s largest family law firm – found domestic abuse cases rise over the festive period.
From their survey of 440 people, 16 per cent of respondents said that they are more likely to experience emotional or physical abuse at Christmas.
Sarah Jane Lenihan, a partner at the firm, told The Sun: “Alcohol-infused violence is something I hear a lot of and sadly Christmas is a time when many overindulge.”
These findings are backed up by the experiences reported to domestic abuse support groups like Women's Aid.
I had cuts and bruises to my face and neck, and I had flashbacks and nightmares. I still suffer with anxiety, even now
Victims suddenly find themselves at home more with violent men and have nowhere to escape to.
Kat Wilson, a senior support worker at Women’s Aid, told The Sun: "Perpetrators may utilise the lack of support services to intensify the abuse.
“With schools, work places, GP surgeries and other ‘safe places’ closed or running on skeleton staff, it is much more difficult for survivors to access help when they need it.”
Jobless Collingwood-Hook appeared before Chesterfield Magistrates Court in March 2021.
The court heard how he tried unsuccessfully to “grab” his son fearing he would not be allowed to see him again – then started throwing punches.
Magistrates suspended his 18-week jail term for 18 months and imposed a two-year restraining order not to contact Gina, telling him: “This is the last chance saloon.”
Gina said: “I am disgusted by the sentence. Christmas was ruined for me and my children. I really feel he ought to have been jailed.”
Under new government measures, domestic abuse and sexual offences are set to be treated as seriously as knife crime.
Kat said victims of domestic abuse should never be made to feel guilty about what has happened to them, and booze and family stress are no excuse for violence.
She added: “The perpetrator of the abuse should always be held responsible for their own behaviour and there is no excuse for domestic abuse.
“Many perpetrators will excuse their abusive behaviours on additional pressures over Christmas, or more often than not, blame the other person for the abuse; ‘the food wasn’t cooked right’ or ‘you’ve not kept the children quiet enough’, for example.
“The perpetrator is choosing to act abusively; this is a choice they make.”
For anyone who is scared by their partner’s action over the Christmas period, help is at hand.
Women’s Aid provide a Live Chat service where victims can speak directly to a support worker online.
Kat said: “No one will tell you what to do, but we can offer some support, talk through anything you’re worried about and if you’re ready, talk you through any practical options you might have.
"If your partner becomes violent then the best people to call are the police as they can provide immediate protection.
"This can be a scary and intimidating thing to do, but their priority should also be your safety, or the safety of any children who are in the house."
WHERE CAN I GET HELP?
You don't have to suffer in silence.
If you are experiencing domestic violence or someone you know is there are groups that can help.
Refuge runs a free, 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.
You can also visit the website or contact Women’s Aid.
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