Gucci heir alleges sexual abuse in Los Angeles County in lawsuitby Jeffrey Nadrich Managing Partner, Nadrich & Cohen, LLP
Alexandra Zarini, the 35-year-old granddaughter of fashion icon Aldo Gucci, filed a lawsuit in September alleging her former stepfather Joseph Ruffalo sexually abused her while she was a minor living Los Angeles County, CA. The lawsuit claims that her mother, Patricia Gucci, and her grandmother, Bruna Palombo, were complicit in the abuse and covered it up.
The sexual abuse began when Zarini was approximately six years old, according to the complaint. The complaint claims Gucci and Palombo “fostered the environment and impunity” Ruffalo needed to abuse Zarini, with Gucci “inappropriately sexualizing” Zarini for Ruffalo’s benefit.
The complaint claims Gucci and Palombo protected themselves and Ruffalo, trying to avoid, at all costs, a scandal that could taint the Gucci name and cost them millions of dollars, by covering up Ruffalo’s sexual assaults, allowing them to continue.
The complaint alleges that Gucci and Palombo tried to coerce Zarini into keeping the sexual abuse a secret as Zarini entered into adulthood, threatening to cut her off financially and disinherit her.
The alleged sexual abuse
The complaint states Zarini’s first memory of Ruffalo’s abuse is when she was six years old. Gucci allegedly encouraged Zarini to join her in bed with Ruffalo, who was naked. Zarini joined them in bed and fell asleep, according to the complaint, which alleges Zarini woke in the middle of the night with her hand wrapped around Ruffalo’s bare penis.
Ruffalo “continued and escalated his sexual assaults” two years later, according to the complaint, starting to seek out Zarini in her own bedroom. The complaint claims Ruffalo, almost always drunk, would walk down the hallway to Zarini’s bedroom wearing a robe with nothing underneath, ice inside his glass of whiskey clinking as he walked. The complaint alleges Ruffalo would remove his bathrobe, climb into bed with Zarini, touch her nipples, rub his penis along her body and buttocks, massage her vulva with his fingers and attempt to penetrate her vagina with his fingers.
The complaint alleges Zarini asked Ruffalo to stop but he continued to abuse her “repeatedly and on a somewhat regular basis throughout her childhood and as she became a young adult.”
Gucci’s alleged facilitation of the abuse
The complaint claims that Gucci forced Zarini to pose naked when she was six or seven years old for a large portrait she kept in the bedroom she shared with Ruffalo. Gucci allowed Ruffalo to watch and tape Zarini when she was naked in the bathtub at age nine, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges Gucci forced Zarini to make her and Ruffalo breakfast in bed, and Ruffalo would pull the sheets back, flashing his genitals to Zarini when Zarini would deliver the food. “Gucci not only failed to reprimand Defendant Ruffalo for such conduct, but unabashedly continued the breakfast in bed tradition,” the complaint states.
The complaint states Gucci lifted Zarini’s shirt to expose her bare, developing chest to Ruffalo on multiple occasions as Zarini began puberty.
The complaint claims Gucci would physically abuse Zarini, pulling by her hair and throwing her to the ground, striking her on her face and body and strangling her. The complaint claims these “altercations set the stage for Defendant Ruffalo to ‘rescue’ Plaintiff from Defendant Gucci,” intervening to stop Gucci’s violence, isolating Zarini then sexually abusing Zarini.
Defendants allegedly ignored cries for help, concealed abuse
The complaint claims Zarini developed an obsession with bathing and showering because of the abuse, repeatedly bathing herself to “try and cleanse herself of the shame and horror she felt,” scrubbing her body “sometimes until the point where her skin became raw and reddened.”
The complaint claims Zarini also developed a compulsive hair pulling disorder, leading to a visible bald spot.
The complaint claims Gucci simply “either ignored or teased Plaintiff about her obsessive compulsive behaviors” in response instead of trying to address the cause of the behaviors, further intensifying Zarini’s feeling of hopelessness.
The complaint alleges a fourth grade school teacher noticed Zarini’s writing contained too much sadness for a girl her age, holding a parent-teacher conference with Gucci and Ruffalo. Gucci allegedly transferred Zarini to another school shortly thereafter, away from the teacher who tried to get involved, according to the complaint.
The complaint claims Zarini tried to kill herself by swallowing painkillers when she was in high school. The complaint alleges Ruffalo didn’t take Zarini to a doctor or seek medical care, and Gucci didn’t intervene or even check on Zarini during her home recovery, nor try to discuss the suicide attempt or deal with the cause of her suffering.
Palombo allegedly admitted knowing about the abuse, did nothing about it
The complaint claims Palombo approached Zarini when Zarini was 16, asking if Ruffalo was sexually abusing her. Zarini allegedly said yes, after which Palombo allegedly told Zarini to keep the abuse a secret and not tell anyone about it. The complaint claims Palombo took zero action to protect Zarini or stop the abuse.
Gucci allegedly forced Zarini to live with Ruffalo at age 20
The complaint claims that, when Zarini was approximately 20 years old, Gucci forced her to move back to California and live with Ruffalo, threatening to cut her off financially. The complaint claims Ruffalo continued to sexually assault her once she moved back in with him, as well as encouraged her to use drugs, which she did “to cope with the stress of living” with him and “in an attempt to dull the ever-present pain of her childhood trauma.”
Defendants allegedly continued to cover up the abuse
The complaint claims Zarini called Gucci after Ruffalo broke her toe and left her on crutches, then eventually flew out to England to talk to Gucci about the abuse. The complaint claims that Gucci told Zarini she couldn’t go to the police about the abuse, that she had no evidence and that nobody would believe her.
The complaint argues Gucci did this because she was more concerned that publicity about the story would cause her to lose millions of dollars than she was about her own daughter’s trauma.
The complaint claims Zarini then went to Palombo, who told her going to the police would be a bad idea and the “ultimate betrayal” of Gucci, threatening Zarini that Gucci would cut Zarini out of the family forever if she went to the police.
Causes of action
The complaint seeks to recover damages based on numerous causes of action, including:
Negligence: The complaint argues the defendants breached their duty of care to protect Zarini from harm when she was a minor.
Sexual battery: The complaint alleges that Ruffalo committed sexual battery against Zarini and that Gucci and Palombo “ratified and authorized” it.
Intentional infliction of emotional distress: The complaint argues that it was foreseeable that the defendants’ conduct would lead to Zarini’s emotional distress.
Gender violence: The complaint argues that the defendants’ conduct constitutes gender violence as defined by Cal. Civ. Code, § 52.4.
About the author
Jeffrey Nadrich is the managing partner of Nadrich & Cohen, LLP, a Los Angeles personal injury law firm which represents victims of sexual abuse.
Created on Nov 2nd 2020 16:15. Viewed 92 times.