NEW YORK, Dec. 4, 2008-- Imagine a little 9-year-old girl, being abducted and sold into slavery, stripped of her innocence and name and then reduced to a number.
It is the reality for 1.2 million children a year - two children every minute, according to UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund).
In honor of World Children's Day and in an effort to raise awareness, Baume & Mercier teamed up with the charitable organization LOVE146 to hold a benefit called "INTO THE LIGHT: Sexually Exploited Children On The Path To Restoration" at the Helen Mills Event Space in New York City.
The benefit, which was hosted by actor and author Stephen Baldwin (who starred in "The Apprentice") included a silent auction, a video presentation and a thought-provoking exhibition of photography by renowned photojournalist Carolyn Cole.
Cole, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 2004 for covering the siege of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, continues to move people with her work.
Her photographs that were on display capture the plight of exploited young children in Southeast Asia, who were preyed upon through sexual violence.
"As a photojournalist, I have always been drawn to the plight of children. Their pained faces are the first I see in places like Liberia, Iraq, Sudan, and Afghanistan where they fall victim to wars they cannot comprehend," Cole told CBSNews.com.
"They pull at my heart during natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and in impoverished lands like Haiti. But there is one group of children whose lives are hidden from us all until it is often too late, and those are the victims of sexual exploitation."
Baldwin described Cole's photography as "smashing, powerful and heartfelt."
"With Carolyn's photography and with a great turnout largely of Baume & Mercier associates and clients with the goal being, obviously a fundraising opportunity, but I think the big part of the night was the number of people that are unaware of the reality of the situation -- that was for me the biggest success of the night (to reach out to them)," Baldwin said.
Others in Hollywood who have joined the effort to bring attention to human trafficking include Emma Thompson, Ricky Martin, Julia Ormond, Ruslana, Joan Rivers and Amitabh Bachchan.
Inspired by Rudy Chavez, president of Baume & Mercier and Rob Morris, co-founder of LOVE146 , Michel Nieto, CEO of Baume & Mercier, said that he was moved by the compelling photography.
"It's one thing to see a picture and another to be there," Nieto said. "I have three children so it affects me much more."
Poverty is another contributing factor to the sexual exploitation of children.
Cole met 16-year-old Serey, whose parents forced her to find work to help support her siblings. A polio victim, Serey had few marketable skills and ended up in a brothel.
Cole also met Kim, whose sister sold her to a massage parlor, where she was being trained to perform sex acts at age 12.