September 20, 2021

Physiological Needs

Content developed by YWCA Spokane Domestic Violence Action Month Committee.

YWCA Spokane’s From Survive to Thrive Educational Series

We will be exploring the importance of meeting the most basic human needs, physiological needs, during the process of healing from intimate partner domestic violence.

DV Education Series: | Intersectionality | Physiological | Safety | Love & Belonging | Esteem | Self-Actualization | Thank You

All humans share the same physiological needs including safe and adequate shelter, restful sleep, clean air, nutritious food, enough water, personal clothing, and agency surrounding our own reproductive health. During this series, we will discuss barriers that survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) may experience when attempting to meet these basic human needs.

Note that barriers may manifest differently for survivors based on their identity statuses. Systems of oppression may make it more difficult for some survivors to meaningfully access support. To aid your engagement in this topic, please reference our Social Justice Glossary of Terms.

Barriers To Addressing Physiological Needs

We know it can be incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship and there are many barriers that may prevent survivors from doing so. Certain tactics used by an abuser to maintain power and control over a survivor may include limiting their ability to independently meet the physiological needs of themselves or their children.


Economic abuse has been found, by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, to be present in 99% of IPV relationships. Economic abuse can compromise a survivor’s ability to provide safe and adequate shelter, restful sleep, clean air, nutritious food, enough water, and personal clothing for themselves and their children, especially if they consider leaving the relationship. When someone is experiencing economic abuse, having the ability to independently meet these needs likely seems impossible and may genuinely be impossible to accomplish without support.


Abusers may use children and reproduction to maintain power and control within the relationship and limit a survivor’s ability to meet the physiological needs of themselves or their children. Limiting or removing a survivor’s personal agency surrounding their own reproductive health by, for instance, sabotaging their partner’s birth control, forcing pregnancies, and/or engaging in shaming around the idea of a being a single parent if the survivor were to leave the abusive relationship are examples of tactics often used. As a result, a survivor may not be able to search for or maintain a job due to childcare needs. In addition, survivors may not be able to seek out supportive services due to lack of childcare resources. They may not consider leaving feasible due to the need to financially provide for the children. They may also experience pressure to “keep the family together”.

Barriers Compounded Due To Social Identities

The above concerns are often only heightened for marginalized folks based on their social identities. This is due to a number of factors, including:

  • oppression & marginalization
  • lack of culturally relevant services & prevention focused educational programs
  • under-reporting
  • a heightened number of other barriers co-occurring with IPV
  • mistrust or fear of systems rooted in collective community trauma

An awareness of these unique experiences and potential barriers associated with survivors’ social identities is critical for individuals and organizations who are interested in supporting survivors of IPV in their healing process. With this awareness, we can provide more personalized, meaningful services and are better equipped to understand, validate, and partner alongside each survivor’s lived experience.

Take a look at Day 11 of our 14-Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge to learn more about racism and domestic violence.

YWCA Is Here For Survivors

YWCA Spokane provides a variety of free and confidential services for survivors of intimate partner domestic violence. Services are meant to bolster one’s own abilities to meet the physiological needs of themselves and their children. For instance, our domestic violence safe shelter and housing program offers a refuge for survivors, their children, and their pets.

All of our staff are trained on issues surrounding reproductive justice. We have the ability to offer condoms, pregnancy tests, and emergency contraceptives free of charge to increase a survivor’s personal agency surrounding their own reproductive health. Our free, trauma informed drop-in childcare called Safe Have is available for parents and caregivers to access while they are receiving our services. This free offering drastically reduces a barrier to our services for those who can’t afford childcare.

Partnering With The Community To Support Survivors

YWCA Spokane’s CSO Advocates partner with the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) in order to help survivors navigate financial resources while being impacted by an abusive relationship. In addition to an employment program, our Women’s Opportunity Center also partners with DSHS to facilitate an intensive soft skill building program that prepares survivors for success as they move forward with achieving their set goals.

Our advocates refer clients to Planned Parenthood for reproductive health services and supports clients with gaining or maintaining personal agency surrounding their own reproductive health. We have an ongoing partnership with Women and Children’s Free Restaurant who regularly provide free meals and snacks for our clients and YMCA of the Inland Northwest who provides free showers for our clients and their children.

If You Have…

5 Minutes


10 Minutes


30 Minutes

and and
Watch this video 
about the impact of survivors’ access to safe, stable housing after they have experienced domestic violence.
and Read this blog post 
about the impact of prioritizing the ability to meet basic needs when supporting survivors of violence in their healing journey.
and Read this article
about reproductive coercion and manipulation used by abusers to make survivors less likely or able to leave.

Physiological Needs Are Crucial Needs

It is crucial to meet one’s most basic human needs during a process of healing from relationship abuse. Barriers can manifest and disrupt the healing process at different points along a survivors journey. It is important to keep in mind the unique concerns of a survivor based on their social identities and trust that they are the experts in their own lives. Each survivor knows what support and services are meaningful for them and their children.

Learn more about how to help a friend who is experiencing IPV by visiting our Prevention At Home Educational Series.

How To Help A Friend

DV Education Series: | Intersectionality | Physiological | Safety | Love & Belonging | Esteem | Self-Actualization | Thank You

By: Rachel Dannen

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