In the past few years, several high-profile cases of sexual abuse in the U.S. — Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly — have prompted serious soul-searching. How could abuses like these have persisted for so long, given the number of people who had to have known what was happening?

In the Epstein case, there is some solace in the recent conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime companion, on charges of having recruited the young women. Still, how many others were complicit but managed to avoid being held responsible? And how many more knew but did nothing?

As we seek the right lessons to draw from these sorts of cases, it is tempting to think that knowledge itself is a bright yellow line: Those who are aware of wrongdoing but who do nothing to stop it bear some responsibility. Still, it is worth asking another, more challenging question: Are there people who didn’t know what was going on but who should have known?

Asking this question may help us appreciate how ignorance — failing to be aware of something wrong that needs to be addressed — does not always excuse our inaction. Sometimes we are responsible for our ignorance.

Perhaps the clearest cases involve legal or professional responsibilities. Think of the day care provider who, unaware of the nut allergy of one of the children in their care, gives the child peanut butter — with tragic results. Or the doctor who, failing to keep up with contemporary medical standards, prescribes a drug that is no longer considered safe — with a toxic outcome. In such cases, their ignorance is no excuse: Given their professional responsibilities, they should have known.

But there are also responsibilities that derive from the ethical obligations we have to one another. Suppose my good friend is in an abusive relationship. If I never raise the issue with her, it can ring hollow if I try to defend myself by saying that I wasn’t aware of the abuse. The ready response is that I should have known.

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Or suppose that you have an aging parent living nearby who continues to drive despite a significant decline in cognitive acuity. When this ultimately comes to light, it can seem inappropriate for you to try to defend your inaction by pleading ignorance. Even if you weren’t aware, you should have known.

We can’t be responsible for knowing everything, of course. But we can be held responsible for what we don’t know when telltale signs of a bad situation are present. We expect everyone to be sensitive to the relevant signs. Sexual harassment and abuse, whose telltale signs might include a wealthy older man inviting young girls to spend evenings with him, are a case in point. Not every situation like this is a situation of abuse, of course. But in cases in which there was abuse, it is no excuse to say one wasn’t aware.

Who gets to decide which situations are the ones we are expected to know of?

The answer is that we all do as we learn to live with one another. Sometimes we negotiate these expectations in our relationships with others: They emerge among family members, in friendships and between colleagues. But we also negotiate these expectations as a whole community.

Indeed, this is one way to understand movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. The former is a sustained effort to make the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and sexual assault a matter of public record; the latter is publicizing the everyday abuses that members of Black communities suffer. Both movements are putting everyone on notice: Ignorance of these facts is no longer an excuse for inaction.

In all likelihood, there are very few Ghislaine Maxwells, people who actively aid abusers. The more prevalent problem concerns those who are aware of evil but who do nothing to stop it. But our moral reckoning must extend even further, to include those who should have known.

The standards by which we hold each other accountable in this way are complex, and they evolve over time. They reflect changes in the expectations we bring to our relationships, and they are sensitive to the social movements of the day.

But make no mistake: When it comes to what you should have known, ignorance is no excuse. #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter make this clear. We’ve all been put on notice.