After the rape, she slept between her mother and sister. Then for months, she slept beside her mother. Finally she felt strong enough to return to her own room, but when she went to bed, she always locked the bedroom door.

Only after she faced Timothy Joseph Buzbee in a Montgomery County courtroom and gave testimony that helped convict him of rape could she sleep with the door unlocked.

Yesterday, the 16-year-old victim threw open more doors, describing in an interview how testifying against Buzbee had put the horror of July 30, 1981, behind her. "It won't ever go away completely," she said. "But at least I feel it's not on my shoulders any more, but on someone else's. I won't be paying any more. He will be paying from now on."

Last Thursday, after an emotional eight-day trial, Buzbee was found guilty of breaking into the victim's Aspen Hill home, blindfolding and gagging her and then driving her to his parents' empty home and raping her. During the trial the girl testified that before the rapist deposited her in a back yard behind her home, "I didn't think I was coming back. I thought I was going to die."

In three harrowing hours on the stand, the victim told her story in meticulous detail, faltering only once and surprising courtroom observers who thought the petite, pretty girl with long dark lashes and a timid air could not possibly stand up to the pressure. "Her appearance is deceiving," her mother said then. "She's tough and strong."

In the days right after the attack, it had not seemed that way. The victim could not be left alone for a moment, according to her mother. But by September 1981, when she went back to school and started cheerleading practice again, she "was handling it so well that it was almost frightening," her mother recalled.

Still, somewhere inside the attack took its toll. Everything seemed hard, the girl recalled yesterday. It was hard living in the house where the assailant had lain in wait to grab her; hard going back to school to see "the way the kids looked at me. Just the way they looked, I knew that they knew," she said.

Her parents saw changes, too. The "refreshing quality" she'd had when she turned 15 a few days before the attack was somehow tarnished, her mother said. And her smile seemed to be gone for good. "Her attitude toward the world changed," her father said. "She quit trying to give, to meet people halfway. She was just very angry."

She knew she had changed. "For a long time I didn't really trust anyone . . . . I was a little cold, a little distant. It was better, maybe, not to deal with people. I didn't want their help or their pity. It was so easy just not to get involved."

The things other kids thought were so important seemed silly to her, she said, "like who did what to who or what someone was wearing. Maybe that's why I felt out of place."

Still, according to her mother, "she was not willing to share this horror with anyone . . . . She was silent for 21 months. This was her way of doing it." She shunned the idea of seeing a rape counselor. "That's not the way I deal with things," the girl said yesterday. "It was much easier for me not to say anything at all."

The only people she did talk to about the case were the two men she had to talk to--Montgomery County police detectives James Beasley and David Hutchison, who interviewed her the day after the rape and ultimately took charge of the 18-month investigation of the so-called Aspen Hill rapes.

At first, she said, "they represented to me something I did not want to have anything to do with." But, she said, because "they were so nice, and helped me so much," a bond did develop among the three of them. Indeed, mentioning their names is the only thing about the case that will bring a smile to her face.

"They were her confidants," according to her mother, who said the investigators told the teen-ager, "even if it takes 10 years, we'll get him."

In July 1981, the assaults had just begun in the upper-middle income community. There had been little publicity about them. But when the victim first talked to police, she learned that there had been three other assaults just a few blocks away. "That made me mad. If I had known, maybe, . . . " she said, her words trailing off.

So that others would be aware of the danger, she asked her mother to call the parents of some of her girlfriends and tell them about the assault. "If anything had happened to any of my friends, I'd feel guilty on top of everything else," she said. "I didn't think I could deal with that, too."

Though her friends knew about what she calls "the incident," it was something they never discussed. She talked about it a bit, she said, with her best friend, who has since moved to Texas. And last Thursday, after the verdict was in, that friend was the first person she called.

Though the victim's identification of Buzbee's voice in a telephone line-up conducted by police had helped lead to his arrest in the Aspen Hill crimes, the victim did not know this. Because she would be called to testify, she could not be told any details of the police investigation.

Yesterday, as she sat curled up in a living room chair, she said that the first time she became absolutely sure that Buzbee was the assailant was when she came to testify at a pre-trial hearing in March.

"I knew if I could see his eyes again I would be sure," she recalled. "So I looked into them . . . . I knew I had to do that."

She said she would never have taken the witness stand if she had any doubts. "There's no way I could have gotten up there unless I was sure. It would not have been the right thing to do."

Now the passage of time and the Buzbee trial have worked to free her from the past. Thursday night when she got home from court, a group of friends arrived at the door and they went out to celebrate with a Chinese dinner. She said that "this year I've eased into getting involved with other people, and meeting new people is easier, too."

And something else has changed. Yesterday, looking at her daughter, the mother recalled the first words of the Montgomery County detectives after the verdict. "Isn't it wonderful," they said, "to see your daughter smiling again."