She moved to Reston eight years ago for two reasons: She thought she someday could afford to buy her own home there, and her friends were reluctant to visit her apartment near Dupont Circle in the District.

The irony is not lost on her today. "They were afraid," said the stylish and single middle-aged woman. "It's crazy but . . . I probably should have stayed downtown."

Five weeks ago, she became the sixth of seven women to be raped in Reston since July. The horror of it all was that she was doing nothing reckless at the time. She was not walking alone in a wooded area. She was not coming home late at night. She was not parking her car in a darkened parking lot.

She was asleep in her own town house, on the second floor, the doors locked. She awoke to find a man on top of her and a knife at her throat.

"I felt safe in my home . . . . This was my castle," she said. "But he destroyed all that. It's not just the rape; it's that he came in and violated my privacy and home as well as my body. In one hour he destroyed everything I had worked to set up here."

Sitting on the rug in her living room one evening last week, she appeared cheerful, unafraid. She related the funny parts of the experience. ("You have to remember the funny stories," she said.) But she admitted she has spent "a fortune" on cigarettes since the attack and knows the two nightmares she already has had about it probably won't be the last.

"I feel very strong about it, but I have to be that way," she said. "People expect it -- you know, stiff upper lip and all." She paused. "It's also a way of keeping my sanity."

Her experience as a single woman in Reston has been far from placid. She has had her car vandalized, has had her house broken into and has been watched by a peeping tom.

Not surprisingly, for the self-sufficient woman who said she is "not the type to get depressed," Reston has lost a lot of its luster.

"I came here partly because of the trees and the sunshine," she said. "It was nice to come home. I'm not going to high-tail it out of here, but I would seriously consider moving from Reston now."

So far, police have had no luck in apprehending anyone in connection with the series of rapes. But they say they have suspects and have flooded the area with SWAT team members and special details to try to catch or at least deter the rapists.

The community also is responding. The local chapter of the National Organization for Women, for example, has organized a rape awareness program next week.

It will consist of a five-kilometer "jog-in" along paths where some of the rapes have occurred. The run is scheduled to start at the Reston Community Center at 3 p.m. Sunday. On Tuesday, a film on rape prevention will be shown at 7:30 p.m. at the center.

The rape victim never thought it could happen to her. Savvy and cautious, she lived in Reston during a rash of rapes several years ago but had taken precautions, such as not using the paths and being careful about coming home after dark.

She had not been prepared for an attacker who was willing to break through sliding glass doors.

"I was aware from the first moment that rape was the end product," she said. "I didn't have a chance, not from square one. I was no more going to fight it than I was going to fly away. All I can think is that he was such a coward."

What has surprised her since the rape is the depth of her anger, and that many friends don't want to talk about it.

She has had to put up with what she considers insensitive comments at best, like the one someone made after hearing that the rapist told her he watched her at at her job in the District. That, the man said, was a "feather in her cap" because the rapist had gone all the way out to Reston to rape her.

Then there was the friend who suggested, less than a month after the rape, that she put it aside and get on with her life. A co-worker, who knew about the rape, took her to lunch to tell her that her attitude at work hadn't been very good lately.

"After murder, it's the second most serious crime," the victim said. "It's not like breaking your leg and getting the cast off. I don't want to put it aside yet. I want to scream out. People think I should be embarrassed, but the only thing I'm embarrassed [about is] that people don't make this an issue."

Her anger is typical, said Anne Van Ryzin, her counselor with the Victim Assistance Network, a Fairfax County rape crisis program. Typical also are her friends' comments urging her to get on with life, Van Ryzin said.

Many people think they are being helpful, "but actually it shows a lack of sensitivity," she said. "It takes months, sometimes years, for a victim to recover."

The victim said she has one burning desire: "I want the rapist to be humiliated in public. I want him to feel the powerlessness, to see him squirm. And I think every woman in Reston would back me up."