Seven weeks after Lorena Bobbitt took a kitchen knife and cut off her husband's penis following an alleged rape, the Prince William woman has become something of a feminist folk heroine.

She has gotten dozens of calls and letters of support, mostly from women, offering everything from simple encouragement to help with legal fees or research on her upcoming court case, said her Alexandria attorney, James Lowe.

"The man in this situation basically got what every woman who has been abused would like to have done but just wasn't able to do," said Elie Petrakis, 37, who along with six co-workers in a District dress shop, including one man, wrote a letter to Lorena Bobbitt and sent a copy to newspaper reporters.

"We thought she needed some encouragement," said Dolores F. Ross, 69, who also signed the letter. "I haven't been raped but I've been close, and as far as we're concerned, it was justified."

Lorena Bobbitt's husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, 26, was charged last week with marital sexual assault and faces a Sept. 27 jury trial. She was charged shortly after the June 23 incident with malicious wounding. A trial date is to be set in early September.

Bobbitt's penis was surgically reattached, and his doctors report that he is making a good recovery.

Gregory Murphy, John Bobbitt's attorney in Alexandria, said his client has received fewer phone calls of support -- five to be exact, four of them from women.

One woman, who said she was offended by other women joking about John Bobbitt's mutilation, offered money to the former Marine and nightclub bouncer because he is out of work, Murphy said. Another said she was sympathetic to Bobbitt because her own "son's life was ruined by being married to a very volatile . . . woman," according to Murphy.

Murphy said he is not surprised that Lorena Bobbitt, 24, has gotten more support than her husband, who denies that he abused his wife and says he, in fact, was the abused partner.

It's "a visceral reaction to a very serious issue in this country, whereas {John Bobbitt} has been very quiet and silent in all this. Also, the women's movement in general is much more organized," Murphy said.

Sidney Siller, founder of the National Organization for Men Inc., a men's equal rights group, said he thinks fewer people have sided with John Bobbitt because men "don't come out and show support in the same way women do. But we're there. From the people I've spoken to, I know what kind of resentment there is against this woman."

Siller, whose New York-based organization was founded in 1983 and has 13,000 members, said board members are considering making a public show of support for John Bobbitt.

Murphy likened the "polarization of opinion" about the Bobbitts to a "gender war."

But sentiment in this case crosses gender lines.

"It reminds me of 'Thelma and Louise,' " said educational consultant Joseph Weinberg, referring to the movie in which two women traveling cross-country get even, often violently, with the men who abuse or insult them. Weinberg's Madison, Wis., firm specializes in talking to men about rape and masculinity, among other subjects.

"I'm a man, and I certainly don't support penises being cut off, but I hope this will not be a smoke screen to really mask the incredible violence that men are doing to women," Weinberg said. "Arguably, there are some men who deserve this."

Evelyn Smith, a 36-year-old Maryland woman who was battered by her husband, and who was acquitted last year in his 1991 shooting death, has started a foundation to help abused women. Smith said she offered to help Lowe with research on the case or to serve as a witness on battered wife syndrome.

"A lot of people think what she did was unfair because he was asleep and . . . {therefore} he wasn't a threat. But . . . as long as he was free, he was a threat," said Smith, who says she was beaten and raped by her husband for 3 1/2 years.

"I think it's really hard for some men to understand what something like that is like," said Rose Maravilla, 31, another dress shop worker who signed the letter and said she had been a victim of rape herself. "I will be livid if they put her away for this."

All this kind of talk has some men's group leaders cringing.

"Supporting this incident would be the ultimate in male bashing," said Alvin S. Baraff, director of the MenCenter, a D.C. counseling center founded in 1984.

"I think they are championing a true criminal," Siller said. "This woman does not deserve any support. This case is another indication of reverse discrimination and gender bias."