Alexandra Zarini, the great-granddaughter of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, has accused her family of being complicit in sexual abuse she experience over 15 years. According to the New York Times, Zarini, 35, claimed in a new lawsuit that she was sexually abused by her stepfather, Joseph Ruffalo, and that her mother, Patricia Gucci, and grandmother Bruna Palombo, did nothing to stop it. In the lawsuit, Zarini accused Gucci and Palombo of helping to facilitate the abuse and threatening her to keep her from exposing the abuse.
Zarini says that Ruffalo began sexually abusing her when she was six-years-old and it didn’t end until she was 22. The Times reported that she accused Ruffalo of exposing his genitals to her, getting into her bed naked, fondling her, forcibly penetrating her with his fingers, rubbing his genitals against her body and videotaping her in the bathtub. She also claimed that once she was was a teenager, Ruffalo encouraged her to begin using drugs and it led to her being addicted to cocaine and crystal meth.
Zarini also accused her mother of hitting her and almost strangling her at times until Ruffalo would intervene and then sexually assault her afterwards. Zarini claimed she told Palombo about the abuse after she asked her if it was happening when she was 16. She said her grandmother told her to keep it a “secret and not tell anyone about the assaults.”
Gucci & Ruffalo Deny All Allegations Against Them
In a statement, Gucci said she divorced Ruffalo when Zarini informed her about the abuse and denied that she allowed it to happen.
“I am deeply sorry for the pain Joseph Ruffalo caused Alexandra,” she said in a statement to The Times. “What he did to her is inexcusable and I was devastated when she disclosed everything to me at our family doctor’s office in London in September 2007. I immediately initiated divorce proceedings against Mr. Ruffalo and set about healing my family through counseling. I am equally devastated by the allegations against me and her grandmother, which are completely false.”
Ruffalo’s lawyer, Richard P. Crane Jr., said Ruffalo denied ever sexually abusing Zarini.
“My client has not been served and has not read the complaint. Therefore, he is not aware of all of the allegations that the Complaint contains. What he has been informed of, he vehemently and categorically denies. While married to Alexandra’s mother, Mr. Ruffalo and his wife were greatly concerned about the mental well-being of Alexandra and took steps to address her instability. Apparently, their efforts failed.”
Zarini Claimed That Ruffalo Volunteering Around Children Motivated Her to File the Lawsuit
Zarini told The Times that when she told her mother that she was considering going public with the abuse allegations against Ruffalo, she tried to discourage her.
“‘You’ll be on trial, you’ll be interrogated,” Zarini said her mother told her. “‘You won’t get a good job, there will be stigma. It will tarnish our reputation. Oh, and you were on drugs, so no one would believe you.’”
She said she decided to go public when she found out that Ruffalo was volunteering at a children’s hospital and was concerned about the welfare of the children he’d be around. Zarini filed a report with the Beverly Hills Police Department in 2019, which is still open. Crane denied that Ruffalo ever volunteered at a children’s hospital.
A change in California laws regarding child sexual abuse also encouraged Zarini to come forward. The Los Angeles Times reported that California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218 in October 2019 which changed the statue of limitations and allowed child abuse survivors to file lawsuits against their accused abusers up until the age of 40.