Dawn was raised by her dad Will, whatever happened to her mother Dawn never mentioned. Will was a drug smuggler, and he was good at what he did as Dawn was unaware of her father's illegal occupation for most of her childhood. At some point, Will began dating a woman named Michelle, who became something of a mother figure to Dawn. Will and Michelle were in a relationship for five years until undercover police officer Michelle shopped Will and got him sent to prison.
As she had no other family who would take her in, Dawn was put in foster care for the remainder of her life as a minor. The constant change and instability in her life caused Dawn to turn to prostitution and drugs, resulting in the birth of her son Lucas, but as Dawn was unfit to raise him, he was taken into care. Also, Dawn was told that Will passed away in prison; his health had declined due to his inability to cope with his punishment.
2018- : Arrival in Emmerdale
Dawn met Ross Barton in April 2018 whilst trying to hunt down Simon McManus. Dawn was frightened by Ross and initially denied knowing a Simon. However, he managed to get the truth out of her - that Simon allowed her and her friends Connor and Lee to live at the house. She told him that Lee was the one who reported Simon, and she had also overheard Simon bragging. She told him about Lee's death - that they both had a bad day, got high, and Lee accidentally overdosed. She also told him about her son, who had been taken into care following her usage of drugs. Ross sympathised with her and gave her the drugs he had stolen from the Emmerdale Veterinary Centre.
Dawn continued to flit in and out of Ross' life, coming into contact with his new acquaintance Ryan Stocks. Dawn's reputation preceded her as Ryan's biological and adoptive mothers sought to push Dawn away from him. Soon after, Dawn discovered Ross was on drugs too and tried to persuade Simon to back off as he was supplying him with them.
Fast-forward a few months, following Ross' departure from the village alongside his partner Rebecca White, Dawn showed up again in Emmerdale, now homeless, and she was taken in by Ross' brother Pete and his partner Rhona Goskirk, though Rhona was concerned about Dawn's presence around her son Leo. By this time, Dawn had mostly cleaned up her act and she was pleased that Ross had managed to turn his life around while moving to Liverpool. Dawn once more started seeing Ryan again, hinting at a possible relationship between them.
In December 2018, Dawn tried to kiss Pete when he comforted her over being estranged from her son. Pete then told Rhona, who confronted Dawn in the village café. An apprehensive Dawn proclaimed Rhona looked down on her and she never asked for the help she received, before pushing Rhona over and causing her to hit her head on a chair. Dawn subsequently fled but was caught by local vicar Harriet Finch while trying to get to the bus stop. Immediately, Dawn recognised Harriet as her former step-mother Michelle, but Harriet convinced all witnesses that it was a case of mistaken identity. Dawn subsequently confronted Harriet at the village church, relaying how Harriet shopped Will to the police and in turn ruined Dawn's life. Harriet explained that while she genuinely loved Will, she had a job to do and he was still a criminal, which Dawn found irrelevant since they were a happy family unit. Dawn made it known that she would bring Harriet down for her actions.