Jennifer Gurry has been working with women who have found themselves in crisis with an unexpected pregnancy for 15 years.
It’s the 15th anniversary of Diamond Women this month, and Jennifer tells Eternity that one thing has stayed the same across all the women who seek her help, no matter how old she is or from what background she comes from.
“She just needs a friend,” she says.
She needs a wing-woman.
“She needs a wing-woman. Most of the women that come to us don’t have girlfriends. They don’t have a tribe in their corner, getting ready to throw them a baby shower. They don’t have people they can talk to about how they’re going to manage or what they should do next.”
Since 2006, when Jennifer started Diamond Women – a NSW not-for-profit that aims to support women facing unexpected pregnancy – she has only seen demand for the service grow.
During 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand was higher than ever. Jennifer says that 86 per cent of women who seek support from Diamond Women have experienced or are escaping domestic violence.
She wants to know that if she chooses motherhood, she doesn’t have to do that on her own.
A survey from the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2020 found COVID-19 is contributing to a worsening domestic violence problem in Australia, with 8.2 per cent of women who lived with a partner had experienced physical violence in the preceding three months. Two-thirds of those women reported it was the first occasion they had experienced violence at the hands of that partner, or that the frequency or severity of the violence had increased during the pandemic.
Diamond Support has supported many, many women who felt pressured by their partners to have an abortion.
Other women approach the service because they, too, have no where else to go. Refugees and asylum seekers, those who have experienced an arranged marriage, and migrant women – all these women have very few supports, says Jennifer.
“They come to us, pregnant and emotionally vulnerable, and they want to know there’s going to be someone there for them, someone who can help them navigate the journey.”
That could be anything from advice on how to make hospital appointments for ultrasounds and tests, to emergency housing options to pointing in the right direction for government assistance for new parents.
“She wants to know that if she chooses motherhood, she doesn’t have to do that on her own. She wants to know what it could look like if she did carry her baby to term. And she wants to be told that if she did choose a termination, what’s involved in that procedure. What are the facts – in a non-emotive, non-political environment, not being bullied or harassed or dismissed,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer has also seen significantly more women seek help from Diamond Women after having an abortion.
“They’re coming to us for counselling because they didn’t expect the level of grief they have experienced. We’re seeing women come to us from 2 days after a termination to 35 years after a termination. There is deep grief, shame and sadness. Genuine sadness.”
We want women to know that it doesn’t matter where they come from, what their relationship status is, or what their plans are – we can support them. They have someone to talk to.
Jennifer’s aim is to be there for as many women as possible, and to remove barriers for them to seek help – regardless of what their experience has been.
“We try and remove all obstacles for women to seek help. We have a team that can speak seven different languages, so language is not a barrier. We offer our services completely free of charge, so finances are not a barrier. We’ve set ourselves up with hubs across New South Wales, in an effort to be more accessible.
“We want women to know that it doesn’t matter where they come from, what their relationship status is, or what their plans are – we can support them. They have someone to talk to.”
Demand for Diamond Women’s services is rising by at least 30 per cent every year, says Jennifer. There are so many women reaching out for help that it’s sometimes hard to meet all the need.
Jennifer’s vision for the next 15 years of Diamond Women is big. She says she wants to “step out in faith”, as a Christian woman wanting to make a big difference in the lives of the women she is serving.
“I’d love to roll out our mum-to-mum mentoring and training nationally,” she says. “I think it’s so valuable, training women in the community to support other women on their motherhood journey.”
The Mum2Mum program aims to empower new mothers who have faced an unplanned pregnancy, by connecting them with other, like-minded mothers and mentors and offering life skills on self-care, parenting, managing finances, health and nutrition and planning for future employment and relationships.
When Eternity last spoke to Jennifer, she said churches were beginning to see services like Diamond Women as a way of putting “love into action” and supporting women who are facing unexpected pregnancies. Her prayer was to see more churches rally around their local pregnancy support centre, rather than protesting outside abortion clinics.
Two years on from that interview, Jennifer says interest from churches continues to grow.
“Church leaders are starting to realise that we can be a resource for them. When they come across women with unplanned pregnancies in their community, we can work alongside them to ensure that woman has everything she needs.”