Dawn Schiller was born in Point Pleasant, NJ, the daughter of a military man and a young German national. When she was six months old, her father was stationed in Germany, where the family remained until she was four. After her father completed a tour of duty in Vietnam, the family relocated to Florida.
Her parents divorced when she was fifteen and her father decided to take Dawn and her sister to California to start over. It was there that, through a bizarre twist of fate, she ended up on the doorstep of the Glendale bungalow complex managed by John and Sharon Holmes.
In 1976, when Dawn was fifteen years old, John befriended, seduced and eventually took her as his underage lover. Although John was at the peak of his fame and could have had any woman he wanted, he chose Dawn, keeping her hidden and secret from the porn industry. John remained in control of Dawn for the next six years, submerging her into a dark underworld of sexual exploitation, brutal domestic violence, descent into drug addiction, and the Wonderland massacre. After the 1981 murders, they fled to Florida, where she eventually broke free and turned him over to the police.
Afraid for her life in the U.S., Dawn spent the next seven years in Thailand, where her father owned a hotel. As she struggled with the deep scars of abuse, post traumatic stress disorder and severe depressions, Dawn managed to earn a degree in Gemology at the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences. She is fluent in conversational Thai and speaks some Japanese.
Dawn returned to Los Angeles in 1988, two weeks before John succumbed to AIDS. It was then that she was reunited with Sharon Holmes and, to this day, the two women share a powerfully close bond.
After John’s death, Dawn worked in the legal profession in downtown Los Angeles for five years and as a paralegal and local county law librarian for four years. Dawn eventually relocated to California and finally to the Pacific Northwest, where she attended Eastern Oregon University and earned her undergraduate degree in Communication and Gender Studies in 2012, graduating summa cum laude.
Dawn served on the committee to revise the university’s sexual harassment policy and received the Women of Vision and Courage award from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW). She is a member of the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi, recipient of their Kathryn Greely fellowship in 2013, and highlighted in the Phi Kappa Phi Forum in 2014. After gaining a full-tuition teaching fellowship, Dawn taught Women’s Studies and Activism at Oregon State University, where she completed her Master of Arts in Women’s Studies in 2016.
Dawn has served as a board member for Shelter From the Storm, and founded the non-profit E.S.T.E.A.M. (Empowering Successful Teens through Education, Awareness & Mentoring), dedicated to assisting teens who are struggling to find a safe and successful path to adulthood. She has also developed the “Mirrors of Me” girl’s art, writing and mentoring camp for at-risk and marginalized youth.
Dawn is the proud parent of a beautiful daughter; she is also an active member in her recovery program and has practiced a clean and sober lifestyle since 1998.