September 20, 2021

Safety Needs

Content developed by YWCA Spokane Domestic Violence Action Month Committee.

YWCA Spokane’s From Survive to Thrive Educational Series

During situations of intimate partner domestic violence, survivors are often left with unknown and limited options to ensure safety for themselves and their families.

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

WARNING: A survivor’s story is included in the below video. Some of the content may be distressing. YWCA’s 24hr helpline is available if needed: 326-2255.

Safety Needs

Many survivors find themselves stuck in the second tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy: safety needs. In order to satisfy the need for safety, individuals must feel comfortable with their personal, financial, and property security. There may be additional barriers to navigate if there is a lack of safety experienced when engaging with law enforcement or social service agencies. Safety planning can provide survivors with confidence to end the relationship and/or perspective to seek alternative routes towards a safer situation. There are multiple ways for a client to engage in safety planning, whether that is through contact at the YWCA Spokane or within a support system that they already have in place.

Personal Security

Survivors may attempt to improve their sense of physical security by obtaining a protection order, creating a parenting plan, and ensuring there is a safe and confidential place to receive mail. Creating a safety plan may allow survivors to continue along the pathway of healing with more peace of mind. While each survivor’s experience is unique, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence has found that, “…immigrant and refugee victims faced overwhelming barriers to safety” in 2001. These barriers may include inadequate translation options, isolation from their cultural communities, and the fear of deportation. Even with utilizing language line services, there are miscommunications or experiences that could potentially get lost in translation. YWCA Legal Advocates play a crucial role in helping mitigate barriers and supporting survivors if they choose to engage in legal services.

It is important to note the presence of a gun or other weapons can drastically increase the threat of mortality. According to, one out of every three women murdered in 2016 was killed by an intimate partner with a gun. In over half of mass shootings in the past decade, 61% of them occurred in the home, with the perpetrator shooting a current or former intimate partner or family member during the rampage. Nearly three out of four of all child and teen mass shooting deaths in the past 10 years resulted from incidents connected to intimate partner or family violence.

Financial Security

Alongside personal safety, a survivor may have experienced financial isolation. Oftentimes financial security can be overlooked as an important skill in order to continue forward. As an example, an abuser might not allow a survivor to work or freely spend money in an attempt to have power and maintain control over their partner. The Allstate Foundation in partnership with Rutgers University School of Social Work wrote that 99% of intimate partner violence cases include financial abuse. This is one of the reasons why many survivors are unable to safely leave an abusive partner.

Often, before a survivor is ready to maintain permanent housing away from their abuser, support with a financial plan is needed. YWCA Spokane offers a highly regarded financial curriculum from the Allstate Foundation in a variety of settings and staff can attest to seeing successful results from participants.

Rutgers University found that the women who participated in this financial education curriculum across the country displayed the following results:

  • 94% learned how to recognize economic abuse
  • 90% learned how to create a budget
  • 80% were able to pay bills on their own
  • 70% learned how to invest in savings

Property Security

View the report.

Domestic Violence(DV) is the number one identified cause of homelessness, according to data collected from the City of Spokane and Spokane County’s Continuum of Care 2020 Everybody Counts Point-In-Time Count. The second identified cause was family conflict.

For many survivors, securing a safe and stable home for themselves is the first barrier they come across when trying to leave an abusive partner. Depending on a survivor’s specific situation it can take a long time and a lot of effort to secure a place of their own, as well as to feel safe there.

Securing housing can be made more difficult when a survivor does not have financial security, legal status as a citizen, or is a non-English speaking survivor. According to a 2011 Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality report; 12.1% of all people in the state were born outside of the U.S. and 19.7% of DV homicide victims in the state were born outside of the U.S. This illustrates the disproportional rate at which DV is experienced by our immigrant population within the state.

The YWCA Spokane housing advocates partner with our local housing organizations as well as local outreach agencies, such as World Relief to connect survivors to meaningful resources. Currently in Spokane, there is a severe shortage of affordable housing options due to the COVID-19 pandemic and eviction moratorium. It is a daunting task for anyone to flee their home and leave everything behind. As previously stated, language barriers and a person’s legal status creates obstacles which make it difficult to secure safe housing when trying to leave an abusive partner.

If You Have…

5 Minutes


10 Minutes


15 Minutes

and and
Read this fatality review  
about immigrant and refugee populations and the intersectionality with domestic violence.
and Read this story of survival 
from Fatima an immigrant who recovered financially from an abusive relationship.
and Read this blog post
that takes a deeper look into the issue of guns in the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence.

Safety Needs Are Crucial Needs

It is crucial to meet one’s safety 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.

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

By: Rachel Dannen

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