Today we’d like to introduce you to Crystal Powell.
Crystal, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
After moving to Utah in 2015 for law school, I wanted to be of service to the community that has given me so much. Today I am one of only five victim rights attorneys in the state of Utah. I have a background in justice reform as the youngest director at the Ministry of Justice in Jamaica and wanted to continue in a profession that builds trust in the justice system. Victim Rights as a highly specialist practice area in criminal law that is dedicated to protecting crime victims’ constitutional and statutory rights in criminal cases to ensure that they have a voice and are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect. I defend those rights for crime victims.
Over the past three years, I have been able to help hundreds of persons from across the state with free legal representation and with moving the needle towards greater protection for persons who have been victims of crime.
Most recently, I was one of two attorneys that secured a watershed ruling from the Utah Supreme Court for crime victims, establishing that as a “general rule: if the law gives crime victims the ability to proactively assert a right or seek a remedy, then they may enforce those specific rights as limited purpose parties in criminal cases.” After 26 years of victims being afforded specific constitutional protections in Utah, it has now been made unequivocally clear crime victims may not be relegated to watch voiceless from the sidelines in issues that the law directly gives that a right or privilege.
As most of my clients are persons who have been sexual or physically abused (many of them being children), I am deeply grateful and proud to be able to offer my knowledge and skills to make the process of justice and healing more meaningful and dignified.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Having also been a victim of abuse, one obstacle I have faced is in not allowing what happened to me to define me or my future. Owning my own destiny despite the choices of others is one of the most empowering experiences. My approach to obstacles is to eventually find a way to allow it to build character, beauty, and strength. I have been able to transmute my own healing into many worthy causes such as working across the Caribbean to fight human trafficking; serving on the Utah Trafficking in Persons Taskforce as the CoChair of the Education and Training Subcommittee, and as the Board Chair of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Additionally, I am yet to encounter another black female criminal attorney in my four years of practice, and that can also be challenging at times when I feel alone or misunderstood, but I understand that I am the representation that is needed here in this field. As I am advocate for anti-discrimination against black women’s hair, I especially love wearing my wash’n’go to court and other ultra-professional settings.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
My organization is the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic. It is the only one of its kind in the state of Utah. I specialize in representing crime victims in criminal cases and civil cases for stalking injunctions and orders of protection.
Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
I think a risk is pushing past fear to put a dream, goal, or intention into action. Things are risky simply because we fear the outcome. We fear we may fail in some major way. My life has been a series of risking it in pursuit of my purpose. I think the biggest risk that I have taken in life so far was moving to a new country alone. I did not know what to expect or how the adjustment would be. If I had allowed fear to guide my decisions, I would not have been able to make the impact that I am now. I would not have found a deeper sense of purpose. Still, I believe that fear of the unknown should not stop someone from moving forward. Instead, it’s wise to take a calculated risk and go for what you want to do or achieve.
Hannah Celeste Photography