The bruises have healed. The missing teeth have been replaced, the broken arms set, the children's nightmares almost gone.

Now there are other problems of survival: finding a place to live, a place to work, some stability after years of living in fear.

They are wives beaten by their husbands, often in front of their children.

The women who formed the Network of Abused Women (NOAW) last February had fled to the Montgomery County Crisis Center with their children and stayed there for three weeks, the maximum time allowed.

But what, they wondered while there, would come next?

While some attention has been focused recently on the extent of domestic violence in the United States, little has been done for women who want to leave or are thrown out of their homes by abusive husbands.

There were 459 reported cases of spouse abuse in 1979 in Montgomery County, although the FBI estimates that only about 10 percent of all cases are reported to the police.

Many women, with neither job skills nor money and fearing vindicative actions from their husbands, do not report the crimes, do not leave home and simply endure.

Others spend time at the emergency shelter, go home and then come back to the shelter a short time, later, having been beaten by their husbands again.

Most of the NOAW members returned once or twice to their husbands before they finally left for good.

The reason was simple. After the three-week period at the crisis center, they had no place else to go.

"You figure you're going through hell with your husband, but at least your kids have a roof over their heads," said Donna Curtis, a mother of three who was married for 10 years. "Though ususally the abuse is worse when you return."

"Psychologists try to come up with theories about why women return to abusive situations," observed Diane Doherty, who has worked as a counselor at the crisis center. "It's basically because they have no alternative. They have no money, no house, no furniture, often no job skills. And they have children to support."

NOAW began when Doherty, the only nonbattered wife in the group, realized that most of the women she met at the crsis center wanted an active role in helping themselves and each other.

She asked women who had been at the crsis center if they wanted to form a self-help group. Seven of them have been together since then as friends and as advocates for other battered wives, who are invited to join them.

They say the purpose of their group, which has at least one formal meeting a week as well as informal get-togethers for the mothers and children, is to make better lives and gain respect for themselves and other battered women.

The group includes eight women, who have 20 children. They share food, babysitting and cars. They often have given each other an emergency place to stay for a few days or weeks.

"All of us were involved in therapy at the center," said Judie Tucker, who left her husband about a year ago. "I had a good experience there. But there comes the time when you want to start doing things for yourself."

"We can physically help other abused women," said Jean, an attractive mother of three who does not want her last name used. "We can visit them in their homes and take them and their kids on an outing. When I was married, I was completely isolated and had no friends. I know what it feels like.

"The first thing I say to them is that you are not crazy, you are being abused," she added. "I felt guilty for years because I didn't like to be thrown around."

"We have a common point of reference, so to speak," said Tucker. "This has been a rough year, and without the support of NOAW, I'm not sure if we would have pulled through as well as we have."

They had no friends when they were married, and no one to whom they could talk about the terror they dealt with every day.

"I was so lonely," said Curtis. "You can't walk into your parents' house or your neighbors' and say, 'Hey, I was just knocked around.' I didn't talk to anybody about the pain in my life."

Now there is a genuine caring among them and a constant effort to make sure that everyone is involved in the group's decisions. They rejoiced when Audrey Durant, who had left college after three years to get married, was accepted as a senior at American Uiversity. They commiserated when another member went into the hospital.

Their children have also benefited from the group's activities.

"It's important for out kids to see that there are other children like them who don't have fathers around," Tucker said. "We're like a family now, but instead of a father, mother and a few kids, there's a lot of mothers and a whole lot of kids."

"All my salary either goes to pay rent or for the babysitter," said Durant, who has received two eviction notices for not paying the rent on time. d"I want to work, I don't want to be on welfare.

"My son opened one of the notices while I was at work," she remembered. "He called me up and asked, 'What does it mean? Does it mean we have to leave?' It was so hard for him."

"We're not the abusers," said Jean. "We're responsible, hard-working people who suddenly find ourselves refugees in our own country.

"You can't accept living in an unsafe neighborhood," she continued. "You feel guilty enough about what you've put your kids through already."

They all agree that finding housing is the main obstacle to starting a new life.

"Trying to find a place to live with three kids is almost impossible," said Tucker, whose husband makes $40,000 a year. She now earns one quarter of that.

"By law I needed a three-bedroom apartment, which I can't possibly afford.

Apartment managers think you're a high risk and don't want anything to do with you. Section 8 (federal rent subsidy) funds have dried up. What are we supposed to do?"

What she did finally was rent a house with another NOAW member and her three children.

Of the seven battered wives, four share rented houses (two groups of two), one lives with her parents, one lives in a county-subsidized house and one has her own apartment.

"We need a transitional place where a woman can live for 6 or 12 months after the crisis center," Jean said. "In that time, she can get some job training or go back to school, with time to breathe."

They dream of a house or apartment complex run by and for battered women. They are applying for federal Community Block Development funds to purchase a house, which they would then rent to other women.

"Community living is the only way to get out (of an abusive marriage)," said Tucker. "We need to pool our resources.

We're fighting for the future," she continued. "We're learning about licenses and grant writing and real estate. I try not to be bitter. I'm trying to turn all that bitterness around for me and my kids. It calls for speaking out."

Persons needing help from NOAW should write P.O. Box 34275, Bethesda, Md., 20034.