Dawn was fifteen years old in 1976 when her family moved into an apartment complex managed by 32-year-old porn star John Holmes. After grooming Dawn, Holmes began a sexual relationship with her, manipulating her with drugs and alcohol, abusing her physically and emotionally, and prostituting her on the streets of Hollywood, to brothels and drug dealers. After the famed Wonderland murders in 1981, they fled to Florida, where she ultimately broke free and turned him over to the police.
Dawn eventually relocated 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. 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 2018.
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), CBS KOIN Channel Six (2013), The Road Through Wonderland, and featured on the Crittenden Foundation & Office for Victims of Crime (2016) "Human Trafficking in the United States". She recently worked with NBC Universal on a docu-drama surrounding the Wonderland murders (2018).
Nationally, Dawn is a consultant with the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (TTAC) and for the Department of Health & Human Services Office on Trafficking in Persons (NHTTAC). She is a founding member of “Survivor 2 Survivor” (S2S) and member of the National Survivor Network Resilient Voices of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST).
Her memoir, “The Road Through Wonderland, Surviving John Holmes”, was published by Medallion Press (2010). Dawn 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 informed care, resilience and healing.
For more than fifteen years, Dawn Schiller has been a survivor-leader in the anti-trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault movements. As a speaker, trainer and author, she combines her personal experiences and academic studies in difference, power and discrimination to raise awareness about sex trafficking, domestic violence and teen victimization.