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 six years in hiding throughout South East Asia, specifically 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, with whom she shared a powerfully close bond until Sharon passed away in 2012.
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 two 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 to Oregon State University, Dawn taught Women’s Studies and Activism and completed her Master of Arts in Women’s Studies in 2018.
Dawn is an original member of the survivors's group "Survivor 2 Survivor" (S2S) and a current member of the National Survivor Network Resilient Voices of Californians Against Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) in Los Angeles. She 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. Nationally, Dawn is a Training and Technical Assistant Consultant (TTAC) with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (TTAC) and for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Trafficking in Persons (NHTTAC).
Dawn is a social justice writer-at-large and regularly conducts memoir-writing workshops. Her memoir, “The Road Through Wonderland, Surviving John Holmes”, was published by Medallion Press (2010). She shares her story of abuse, trafficking and survival in her presentations and trainings to inspire, educate and motivate communities across the United States. Her academic presentations and trainings dynamically infuse personal lived experience and cover topics of anti-violence, anti-trafficking, (Commercial Sexual Exploitation & Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children), teen/child abuse, the media, ally-ship, trauma and trauma informed care, resilience and healing.
In film, Dawn has worked as an associate producer and consultant on the movie “Wonderland” where actress Kate Bosworth portrayed her while actor Val Kilmer played John Holmes. In television, her story has been told on the Travel Channel (2011) Hidden City Crime Files: L.A., with Marcus Sakey, Investigative Discovery Channel (2013), Porn Star Pedophile, CBS KOIN Channel Six (2013), The Road Through Wonderland, featured on the Crittenden Foundation & Office for Victims of Crime (2016) "Human Trafficking in the United States" and with NBC Universal on a docu-drama surrounding the Wonderland murders (2018.)
Today, Dawn is revered as an expert survivor-leader — national speaker, educator, consultant and author in the anti-trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault and trauma & recovery movements. Most importantly, Dawn is the proud parent of a beautiful daughter and an active member in her recovery program, practicing a clean and sober lifestyle since 1998.