In the early morning hours of Oct. 26, two University of Maryland freshmen women were enjoying one of their first weekend nights out at a popular bar a few blocks from the College Park campus.

They met two men who stayed with them until the bar closed at about 2:30 a.m. Then all four walked to a party at a fraternity house nearby.

"The girls knew some people at the party," said Capt. Robert Anderson of the campus police. "I don't know how the guys got in."

The four stayed only a short time at the party. At about 3 a.m. the freshmen decided to make the 20-minute walk back to their dormitory, Centerville Hall, on the other side of campus. The two 24-year-old men followed them on foot, offering the women a ride in their dark blue pickup truck, said campus security director Thomas de Seve.

By now a little nervous, the women stopped at a phone booth just off Rte. 1 and attempted to call the campus Call-A-Ride bus. They reached the wrong operator and gave up. The women huddled in the booth for a few minutes, to shake off their fear and the 40-degree chill, then finally accepted a ride from the two men.

"They never made it into the North Gate," said De Seve. "They took a ride on the Beltway."

According to police, the women reported that one of them was raped and the other was sexually assaulted before they were returned to Centerville at about 4:30 a.m. Their ride of terror need not have taken place, said De Seve -- the phone booth where they made their early-morning call is just in front of the campus police headquarters.

The two young women, who have agreed to press charges against the alleged assailants, called the police when they got back to the campus. They described their experiences to Det. Thomas Mauriello of the campus police, who would not release the women's names.

Four rapes and four other sexual assaults on women have been reported at the College Park campus since the term began, compared with two during all of last year. (Police define as "sexual assault" any sexual attack short of rape, including other forced sex acts.)

The rapes have created an atmosphere of fear among women on the hilly, red-bricked campus. Of the 35,000 students, 8,000 live in the dormitories, and more than half of them are women.

"Rape is an act of violence, not an act of sexuality," said Susan Klimczak, undergraduate representative to the Chancellor's Commission on Women and a senior at the university. "There is a dual problem here. I think women should be able to do what they want, but right now I fear for my life when I go out at night."

When the women were returned to campus, a student posted at the North Gate as part of a police aide security program routinely noted the license number of the truck because of the late hour. The next day, campus and Bladensburg police arrested Frederick Vlachos of Baltimore and Leonard Baldwin of Bladensburg. The two were charged with abduction, rape, and assault with intent to rape. They are being held in the county detention center in Upper Marlboro.

De Seve said the campus community is fortunate that the security system was working well enough to identify the truck and, most importantly, that the women were willing to press charges. Two other women who said they were raped in a fraternity house just a month before were not willing to testify.

They, too, were freshmen, and like the first two women, they had begun their Friday evening at the Rendezvous, a popular bar just south of the campus on Rte. 1. According to Kathy Krackower, a senior student who counseled the women a few days after the alleged incident, those women met two men at about 1 a.m. on Sept. 11 and were invited to a fraternity house on the pretext of a party.

One of the women told Krackower she went to the bathroom and when she came out, she was told her friend was in another room. When she went into that room the door was locked. Then a man came in and raped her while six others watched, said Krackower.Then a second man came in, pretending to comfort her, and raped her again. Her girl friend had been similarly attacked in another room. Neither woman knew what had happened to the other until after their release, according to Krackower.

The women contacted campus police. Mauriello interviewed them and referred them to Krackower, who runs the Women's Crisis Hotline, a campus counseling service. Because the alleged rapes took place off campus, the incident was turned over to the Prince George's County police.

"Our investigators talked to the alleged victims but they would not cooperate. They made it known that they would not prosecute, so we had to drop the investigation," said Prince George's County police spokesman Robert Law.

"They were scared -- scared of their parents finding out, scared of the court system. They were young," said Krackower. "They were just freshmen checking out what was happening at school, with no previous experience with sororities or fraternities," she said.

The president of the fraternity implicated in the September incident denied that it took place and hung up on a reporter.

A recent FBI report ranked the College Park campus fifth in robbery and eighth in assaults among 300 colleges surveyed nationally. Chancellor Robert L. Gluckstern said, however, that when the figures are corrected for the size of the school, it ranked in the middle of the list of schools in the report.

Detective Mauriello of the campus police specializes in investigating rapes and sexual assaults. He said he and his partner have put in more than 40 hours of overtime in the last two weeks. Most of it has been spent in search of a white male, about 6 foot 1, who they believe may have attempted two rapes on campus between Oct. 29 and Nov. 6, by jumping out from behind bushes and grabbing the women. Both women had the presence of mind to kick the attacker in the testicles, and one of them put a deep scratch on his right arm, Mauriello said. He had no explanation for the rash of attacks.

"I've been here for seven years and I'm not sure," he said. "Ninety percent of our victims are freshmen, which means newcomers are coming to our campus unaware that the things that can happen in the real world can also happen on a college campus."

Klimczak said she has seen awareness of security programs go up and down in the four years she has been on campus. After a number of rapes and assaults in 1975, a shuttle system of buses running about every 20 minutes was started, and later augmented by the Call-A-Ride service during the dusk-to-dawn hours.

In 1975, a four-step, $1.2 million program to install special security lighting throughout the almost one square mile of main campus was approved by the state legislature. Although the first tree steps, covering most of the peripheral grounds, have been completed, a request for $400,000 more, to install the lighting on the central park of the campus, was not approved by the state legislature last year, according to John Bielec, assistant vice chancellor for administration. In this year's budget a $600,000 request to complete the program, with some additions, was slashed to $270,000 by the state. Board for Higher Education, he said.

With the increased security measures, the number of rapes and the awareness of women on campus had declined over the last few years, according to Klimczak.

Klimczak and Krackower led a peaceful demonstration with about 80 students, mostly women, in front of the main administration building last week, to protest the outbreak of attacks.Klimczak says she received "a really positive reaction" from the administration on their request to improve security measures and to increase the number of security seminars for women on campus. The response she received from some students, on the other hand, was not as positive.

She cited a sorority member who was quoted in the campus newspaper after the alleged fraternity house rapes.

"I think these girls got a little bit too drunk and a little bit promiscuous," the woman was quoted as saying. "They were asking for it and they got it."

She also said the abuse of alcohol, "an integral part of this college," shares part of the blame for creating an atmosphere in which rapes can take place.

De Seve conducts regular security seminars for students and faculty members. He stresses the importance of rape victims pressing charges.

He places the blame on the attitudes of males as well as the thoughtlessness of some women.

"I would say that men contribute to the problem when they think of women as nothing but sexual objects -- notches on their pistols. Women, on the other hand, contribute by either encouraging that kind of behavior or by not taking the proper security measures," he said.