Gucci Heir Alexandra Zarini Accuses Stepfather Joseph Ruffalo Of Sexually Abusing Her For Years As A Child

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Who Is Alexandra Zarini? Inside Gucci Heir's Claims That Stepfather Joseph Ruffalo Sexually Abused Her For Years As A Child
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Who is Alexandra Zarini?

This week, the famed Gucci family is coming under fire for some pretty horrifying accusations. Alexandra Zarini, the 35-year-old great-granddaughter of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles that claimed that her stepfather, Joseph Ruffalo, sexually assaulted her as a minor and that her mother, Patricia Gucci, and grandmother, Bruna Palombo, facilitated and covered up the abuse.

Though Ruffalo hasn't been convicted of this crime, these allegations are very serious and they highlight just how common childhood sexual abuse can be. Here are all the details about Zarini's accusations: 

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Alexandra Zarini claims that Ruffalo abused her from ages 6 to 22. 

According to Zarini's suit, Ruffalo reportedly got into bed naked with her regularly while he and Zarini's mother, Patricia, were still married, exposing himself to her and attempting to penetrate her with his hands. She also claimed that he fondled her and rubbed his genitals on her, and that this activity went on from the time she was six years old until she was 22. 

Zarini accused her grandmother and mother of trying to protect the Gucci name instead of her.

Zarini claims that her grandmother, Palombo, asked her if she was being molested when she was 16 years old and when she said that she was, but both she and her mother told her to keep it a secret so as not to hurt the Gucci name in the fashion world. But in a statement to the New York Times, Patricia Gucci claimed that Zarini's allegations about her and her grandmother are false and that when she found out about the abuse, she immediately filed for divorce. 

“I am deeply sorry for the pain Joseph Ruffalo caused Alexandra," said Patricia Gucci's statement. "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 denies the allegations. 

In his own statement via his lawyer, Richard P. Crane Jr., Ruffalo has denied Zarini's allegations against him, accusing Alexandra of being "unstable."

“What he has been informed of, he vehemently and categorically denies," Crane said. "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.”

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Sexual abuse of children and minors is incredibly common. 

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 have experienced sexual abuse from an adult. Girls are far more likely to be victims of sexual abuse; the organization reports that 82% of all victims under 18 are female, and those who do suffer from assault and abuse are more likely to also develop mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and drug abuse.

Sexual abuse of adults is also common.

RAINN also reports that every 73 seconds, an American is a victim of sexual violence. As with children, females are far more likely to be abused and assaulted, and 90% of victims who are adults are women. This is especially prevalent among women who also happen to be college students, which makes their risk three times greater. 

There are ways to help child abuse victims.

Want to get involved to bring an end to child sexual abuse? There are a few things you can do. There are organizations like Prevent Child Abuse America that are good places to start and that are always looking for people to donate their time and money to their efforts. The organization also suggests writing to local elected officials to support policies that bring an end to sexual abuse, and of course, the simplest thing to do is to keep eyes and ears open and to report abuse when you see it — and to always take children seriously when they say they're being abused. 

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Nicole Pomarico is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Cosmo, Us Weekly, Refinery29, and more.